It’s not often that you will find me talking about sport as I am far from being an authority on it and have no claims to fame in that direction. But today, I feel compelled to write about the way that the Habs, or Montreal Canadiens as they are also known, beat the Toronto Maple Leafs (why not Leaves, Toronto?) in the first round of the Stanley Cup play offs last night.
For the non-Canadian/North American readers of my blog, ice hockey is the biggest sport in Canada and at the end of a very busy season, there are play offs in each division (slightly different this year because of Covid) between the teams who finish top of their division. Whoever is left standing competes in the Stanley Cup final although this is over a series of 7 games – best of 7, wins. It is a staple of each year in our Canadian household, to watch the hockey and hopefully, cheer on our team.
You may wonder why someone who lives in Ottawa supports the Canadiens and not the Ottawa Senators or the aforementioned Leafs, another Ontarian team. Well, when we first moved to Canada as a family, we lived in Montreal and so the Habs were our first team. It’s like our continued support of the Fremantle Dockers, our AFL team choice from when we lived in Perth, Australia. Even after a subsequent move to Calgary meant a shared loyalty to the Calgary Flames, my heart has always belonged to the Habs, although my son supported the Edmonton Oilers, who have, in my opinion, the coolest logo. And we continue to support the Stampeders at CFL, not the Ottawa Redblacks.
It’s a mess and I digress.
Anyway, the upshot is, is that Habs are our team. They have a very accomplished hockey history having won the Stanley Cup numerous times, maybe even the most ever although this has not been so much in recent years. But last night, they beat the Leafs 3-1 after having been 3-1 down in the seven game series and looking like they were going to go out, but then, with a surge of renewed vigour, they recovered to win the remaining games to win the series 4-3.
Those of you who are my friends on Facebook will know that I have had a disappointing weekend. I know that the root cause of this is not highly original either and has affected every one of us in turn and I am, of course, referring to the pesky Covid-19 virus.
Provincial borders have been closed for months now in a bid to stem the spread of Covid but there was the chance that Doug Ford, Ontario’s Premier, was going to lift this on Wednesday June 2nd in order for freedom of movement to resume and the relative inching towards normality to commence, albeit hesitantly.
On Sunday morning, May 30th, I read that this border closure has been extended, for another two weeks and what this would mean to us as a family is that we were reined in again in our bid to do enjoyable stuff that did not involve staying within the confines of our home.
We had planned to go go-karting for my eldest son’s birthday across the river in Gatineau in Quebec on Thursday after the border had opened.
We had booked camping in La Mauricie National Park in Quebec where we would get to try out all of our camping equipment including our camping toilet which is essentially a bucket with a toilet seat and some poo bags – I may not have been looking forward to this aspect as much as the scenery – but that too was not to be.
We had arranged to visit La Grande Hermine, a replica of Jacques Cartier’s ship which you can rent out in northern Quebec and stay in, it having bedrooms, a kitchen and a deck in addition to its deck, if you see what I mean but not a lot of insulation – summer stays only. We had had to book this a long time ago because it’s a popular destination and as my youngest is a fan of ships – see blog about boat building – it was the jewel in our summer travel plans.
Not anymore. Scrapped.
A lot of my good friends and family had tried to bolster me after my announcement and I appreciated it. I am generally an optimistic sort but I have to say that I was bloody frustrated on Sunday morning with the whole virus situation. I know that I am not alone in this and I know that I have a lot to be grateful for, and I am. But I don’t think there is anything wrong in expressing a bit of annoyance at life when it decides to throw you a swerve ball, especially one that bonks you on the nose three times in quick succession.
So, when I was watching the hockey last night, I have to admit, I wasn’t holding out much hope that the Habs would do it. I wanted them to but part of me felt like it just couldn’t happen because everything seems to be working slightly off kilter at the moment and to hope that they would beat the Leafs just seemed an overstretch. I mean, they’d got it back to 3-3 in the series which was a feat in itself but to win and go on to the next round? It just seemed too much.
And then, they did it. They won!
And not only that, but they did it conclusively. What a game! And Carey Price, the goaltender for the Habs played an absolute blinder, saving 29 shots on goal and looking like some sort of manic lobster, moving from side to side with his gloved hands at the ready, diving on the puck, getting lost in the melée of players as the Leafs desperately tried to score, performing the splits to block and generally, moving with such precision, energy and determination that he was like an manically alert human wall.
Except for the one goal but even walls have chinks.
I have to admit to having a soft spot for Carey Price. Not a crush, you understand although he is a good looking man. There is just something about watching him on the ice that I very much enjoy, more than any other goaltender. He is my favourite Habs’ player, Brendan Gallagher a close second for his cheekiness.
Price made the difference in last night’s game, no doubt and as a result of his performance, he was interviewed afterwards.
I was already feeling pretty pleased with the win but I always enjoy seeing players I like interviewed because it’s quite nice to see the person behind the helmet for a change, especially goaltenders as they look like cage-masked-sumo-costume-wearing-soldiers-with-sticks for the most part. Seeing behind that exterior is quite illuminating.
And it is this interview which has also lifted my spirits for two very good reasons:
- When asked about what Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs’ player said to him at the end of the game when they do a line-up and congratulate/commiserate after the game, Carey Price complimented Matthews on his ability, stating he had the utmost respect for him and declined to give specifics, saying merely that Auston had nice words for him but that it stays between them.
- The interviewer, quite rightly, hinted at the pressure that Price must have been under throughout this game in these “win or go home situations” and asked him about his feelings during the play and Carey Price said “It’s fun,” and smiled.
Not particularly remarkable maybe but I was pretty impressed.
Firstly, the not sharing. He could have. I don’t profess to know Auston Matthews – I notice he spits a lot and is very fast on the ice – but I don’t reckon he’d have minded much if Carey had shared what he said. But Price’s response is respectful and gentlemanly – he politely tells the reporter that it is none of his business and I really like this. We all want to know what Auston said. I’m even thinking about Googling if someone has lip read it and put an explanation on the web somewhere but the fact that Carey Price declined to share is, for me, a sign of the man.
Secondly, the statement “It’s fun”. Not stressful or highly competitive or essential that he step up or any serious sports’ comment. Just “It’s fun”.
And this, in my view, is what sport should be. I mean, it may be a bit different at Carey Price’s level because he’s paid and it’s his job and you could argue that there is a weight of responsibility there for him to perform to the highest ability as a duty to the fans, the club…blah, blah, blah.
But sport should be fun. From the lowest to the highest level, it should be fun. It should invigorate. It should entertain. It should be inspiring. It should be positive to play sport at all levels. The fact that Carey Price is saying this at NHL level fills my heart with warmth because there are people at base level who could learn a lot from that sentiment and I am saying this from personal and bitter experience with my son.
Because, somewhere along the way, this attitude has been lost. It has become about the winning. Ah, maybe it was always about the winning, who am I kidding? I mean, everyone wants to win, don’t they?
And at Carey Price’s level of play, it must be a going concern in terms of revenue and merchandise sales. Whatever you think of hockey or soccer or football or whatever it is that gets you passionate, these clubs are businesses and winning teams means big business. I get it. I understand how the world works and whilst love may build a bridge, the engine is most definitely driven by economics.
But the fact that arguably the best goaltender in the NHL is saying that it was fun has filled me with optimism and passion and a positivity that I thought would only be restored when Covid had hightailed it out of here.
What a top bloke. I am glad that he found it fun and to be honest, it will make it a bit easier for me watching him in the future when they face off against Winnipeg Jets in the next round to know that he is actually enjoying himself out there no matter what.
I think that’s pretty cool.